In 2006, the world awoke to a buzz out of Portland. Someone had found the audacity to name their band after a Belle and Sebastian song. Rather than fey chamber pop, though, Stars of Track and Field played precise, drummer-free electro rock, with vocals that sounded more like Snow Patrol than Stuart Murdoch.
On the eve of releasing their new album, "A Time for Lions" (Wind-Up) -- out today on iTunes and everywhere Sept. 15 -- Stars of Track and Field's Kevin Calaba spoke with Billboard.com about the band's break from its more abstract first album and move towards a new, Pro Tools-friendly sound: "It's a basic need for evolution."
There are reports that Stars of Track and Field isn't named after a Belle and Sebastian song after all. Is that true?
Kevin Calaba: Ahhh, no, we are. We've just been trying to blur the lines for a while. It's definitely a Belle and Sebastian reference, but you know, it's fun when you receive the same question to get a little creative with the answer. [Guitarist and vocalist] Jason Bell just came to rehearsal one day and had the name. We were thinking about calling ourselves The Holland Tulip Crisis, which was an actual a tulip crisis.
Your first album was called "Centuries Before Love and War." There's something really historical and almost romantic about all those names.
Early on, there was a sense of trying to date ourselves and tell stories from the perspective of someone not of this time. This current record is more of a here and now, as far as the narrative is concerned, and much more literal. "Centuries" was pretty abstract and kind of a cry for help. Not to say it's naive in its want for peace and justice, but it's definitely a different record.
Why did you decide to go less abstract for the new album?
It's a basic need for evolution. I listen to "Centuries," and I just have a need to say that's not us anymore. It's what makes you feel satisfied when you're developing and searching and exploring, rather than just staying the same.
Was the band's preoccupation with historical allegories starting to feel like artifice?
When I'm sitting there and I'm telling a story, I can feel the direct and the abstract. Painting an abstract picture is a beautiful thing, but when you're painting a picture that has a linear form, there's an immediacy. We're not getting any younger, and I'd love to have a huge group of people get into this record.
Do you think "A Time For Lions" will achieve that?
In my opinion, it's just a far better record. There were no expectations, and we went where we wanted to go. "Centuries" was good for a band starting out. This is for a band in their stride. I'll know in a year if I hear a continuity [between the two].
Was the recording process different?
We recorded the first album all live, and on the second album we did a lot of stuff in Pro Tools. It makes for a really elastic experience. We're definitely a different band. I don't know if I'd attribute that to driving across the country, but for me the experience of giving people a song has evolved. I want to grab them by the head and shake them. I don't want to be background music.